squishy ghost marshmallows

Dear Danielle,

We did it, we found a picture book and food project to collaborate on! I’m so excited we got a match, this really is the perfect fit with the both of us being fans of Rebecca Green and her debut book, How to Make Friends with a Ghost.

Rebecca’s ghost is so heart-achingly cute and you just want to eat it. And now I’ve made it possible. These homemade marshmallows are soft and delicate, but still firm enough for making s’mores or toasting for that lovely burnt flavor.

Dare I say they’re a bit tastier than store-bought ones? My ultimate taste-tester was my husband who loves marshmallows. Trust me when I say he does not give my cooking any bias, so when he said these were better than the ones from the grocery store, I was surprisingly shocked (and feeling pretty rosy inside).

Vanilla Marshmallows
Makes enough to fill an 8 x 12 x 2 inch baking pan

½ cup water
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
Unsalted butter, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup golden corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Icing sugar

  1. Using the bowl from your stand mixer, pour in the water and gelatin. Let it sit so that the gelatin can bloom.
  2. Brush the melted butter onto the base and side of your baking pan. Set it aside.
  3. Add the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the other half cup of water into a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring it to a rolling boil and let it boil for about a minute. Then remove it from the heat.
  4. Fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment and turn it on low to mix the water and gelatin that’s already in the bowl until it combines. Then very slowly and carefully, add the hot sugar and corn syrup mixture into the bowl.
  5. Still mixing on low, add the vanilla extract.
  6. When everything is in the bowl, turn the mixer to high and whisk for 10 minutes until the batter turns white and triples in size.
  7. Stop the mixer, using a spatula, scrape the marshmallow batter into the baking pan. Spread the batter evenly and do your best to level it. A bench scraper or off-set spatula can help.
  8. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, be sure not to touch the batter otherwise it’ll stick. Or use a lid if your baking pan comes with one. Leave the marshmallow to set at room temperature overnight or in the fridge.
  9. The next day, take the foil off and sprinkle icing sugar over the top. Cover the surface evenly so that it won’t be too sticky to handle. Run a knife along the edge of the pan to help loosen the marshmallow slab. Then carefully flip the marshmallow out onto a counter. Sprinkle icing sugar all over the marshmallow – don’t forget the sides.
  10. Use a knife to cut them into squares or roll a cookie cutter in icing sugar before using it on the marshmallow.

Ghost Marshmallows

You’re going to get icing sugar everywhere. But if you have a large baking sheet, it’s best to try to contain everything there. No promises of course, I still got sugar on the table, floor, and on my apron.

Ghost Marshmallows

Use your hands to pat the marshmallow down with icing sugar, it will make it so much easier to work with. This large slab felt like a really nice pillow for sugar fairies to sleep on.

Ghost Marshmallows

If you have a tulip cookie cutter, upside-down, it looks like Rebecca’s ghost. I tried to get one, but a few of the local shops weren’t carrying it. I ended up using my Totoro cookie cutter. I just had to snip the ears off using kitchen shears.

Ghost Marshmallows

So excited for how chubby these ghosts are going to turn out.

Ghost Marshmallows

Using black and red edible markers, I drew on the faces and blush. They actually bleed a lot, so try to use a very fine tip or gently draw the faces on and wait for the lines to thicken.

Ghost Marshmallows

One trick if you don’t want a solid red blush, I dipped the edible marker in icing sugar first so that the tip would be speckled. Then I gently tapped it onto the ghost’s cheek.

Ghost Marshmallows

You can sort of see the slight bump where Totoro’s arms/hands would be, but they work as Rebecca’s ghost has a similar look.

Ghost Marshmallows

“If you’re a person who is sweet, warm and kind, a ghost may come out and find you.”

Ghost Marshmallows

These little ghosts are pretty darn cute when wrapped up as gifts! If only I had some graham crackers on hand . . .

Play the video to see how soft and squishy the ghost marshmallow is!

Sincerely,
Syl

*Disclaimer: I work at Tundra Books and sent Danielle a copy of How to Make Friends with a Ghost by Rebecca Green for review consideration. All the while, Danielle and I were looking for a side project to collaborate with during the past couple months and it just so happened that I am the publicist for this title.

pineapple cookies

Dear Naseem,

You’re back!! I hope you had a great time watching Groundhog Day and hopping all over New York City.

It finally happened, I used those pineapple cake molds with the attempt to make pineapple cakes! About time since I’ve been dreaming about it since February.

Here’s how it went down: I saw pineapples on sale at the grocery store and bought them. I pretended that I knew how to pick the ripe ones because they were all smelling so good. Went home to wash the metal molds again because I couldn’t remember if I cleaned them when they were gifted to me. Then I rolled up my sleeves to get to work.

Pineapple Cookies
Makes 40 small rectangular tarts and excess pineapple filling

Pineapple Filling
2 pineapples
1¾ granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 whole star anise

Shortcrust Pastry
2⅓ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter
Zest from 1 lemon
1 large egg yolk
4 teaspoon water

Pineapple Filling:

  1. Peel, core, and chop the pineapple flesh into 2-inch cubes
  2. Place the cubed pineapples in a food processor and pulse until it becomes a purée.
  3. Pour the purée over a sieve to let our the excess juice. Save the juice to mix with a can of ginger ale – it makes for a great drink while you work!
  4. Place the pineapple purée in a large saucepan and add in the sugar, vanilla extract, and star anise. Turn the stove up to medium-low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium and stir every 3-5 minutes to avoid burning.
  5. Depending on the remaining juice content and heat of your stove, this can take up to 30-40 minutes before the purée starts to thicken and turn a golden colour. You’re not making a jam, so you have to keep cooking until the filling holds it shape when spooned.
  6. When it’s ready, turn off the heat and remove it from the stove top. Let it cool for about half an hour before transferring to an airtight container. Keep this in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the tarts.

Shortcrust Pastry:

  1. Using the food processor again, sift in the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and add it in with the lemon zest. Pulse to mix in. Whisk the egg yolk and water together, add it to the mixture and pulse until the dough comes together.
  2. Take the dough out wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Let it chill in the fridge for an hour. Take out the dough half an hour before you’re ready to assemble.

Pineapple Cookies:

  1. Brush the molds with melted unsalted butter.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  3. Scoop the pineapple filling into a piping bag, set aside.
  4. Lightly dust your working surface with flour and roll out the pastry dough. Using the mold, stamp out the shapes and layer it on the bottom of each mold.
  5. Pipe a dollop of pineapple filling onto the center of each rectangle.
  6. Using the leftover pastry dough, repeat by stamping out the shape of the mold. Each sheet will be placed on top of the pineapple filling. Tuck in the sides as best you can so that it seals the filling in.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool before transferring it to a wire rack. Use a tong to pop the tarts out of the metal molds.

Pineapple Tarts

I somehow managed to get Howard to peel, core, and chop all the pineapple for me. I stood around waiting and snapped photos. There’s also something very satisfying about seeing a solid fruit get puréed into a beautiful sauce.

Pineapple Tarts

At this point, I did wonder if I should just pour this pineapple purée over some ice cream. Or look up a recipe for Dole Whip. But I soldiered on with the original plan.

Pineapple Tarts

Here’s the golden colour of the pineapple purée cooked for over half an hour. Wear comfy slippers or have a squishy kitchen mat while you stir this filling past the consistency of jam.

Pineapple Tarts

Alright, the filling is cooling in the fridge. Time to butter those molds so that the cookies pop right out.

Pineapple Tarts

I used one of the molds to cut out 40 rectangles and a bench scraper to help pick them up.

Pineapple Tarts

Here goes the bottom layer.

Pineapple Tarts

I used a piping bag since it would be easier to distribute each pineapple dollop onto the bottom layer of pastry.

Pineapple Tarts

I was pretty conservative as I didn’t want any to leak out – but of course, some did manage to escape after it was baked.

Pineapple Tarts

Okay, this again. Another 40 rectangles for the top layer.

Pineapple Tarts

I placed those gently on top and pushed down around the edges to seal the pineapple filling in.

Pineapple Tarts

When they were ready, I had them cool for a bit and used a tong to pop the cookies out of the hot metal molds. Then ate one while it was still hot – probably tasted the best then because who doesn’t love hot pockets?

They kind of look like Fig Newtons?

Pineapple Tarts

But after various taste-testers, I think the conclusion is that these aren’t pineapple cakes (my heart breaks), but they are amazing pineapple-filled cookies (my heart has hope again).

I think my least favourite part of this recipe is washing the molds after. Luckily, I only had to give them a quick scrub as they survived the dishwasher (just taking risks here and there).

I liked the filling but I’ll just have to find a different dough recipe for a more cake texture. I know we discussed maybe adding baking powder or baking soda? Although when you mentioned winter melon, I am intrigued on how to make the filling.

Also, this made a ton of filling, I could probably cut the recipe in half. Or enjoy the additional pineapple tart I would have to make each time.

Sincerely,
Syl

chocolate soufflé

Dear Howard,

Wooooooo, it’s been a year on this new blog! Not bad, not bad. To celebrate, I thought I would give the good old soufflé a try. Remember the first time we made it? We had no idea what we were doing and ended up with pots of mush. Now, I know what to do but I still don’t have photographic proof of it. Read on to see why.

Chocolate Soufflé
Recipe adapted from Sugar Rush
Makes 4 servings

Unsalted butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar
158 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
⅔ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 large egg yolks

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Have a roasting pan ready.

chocolate souffle
First up, we have to melt the butter and brush it into the ramekins. Making sure it’s coated all along the edges.

chocolate souffle
Then take 2-3 tablespoons of granulated sugar and pour it into the first ramekin. Rolls the sugar around until it’s completely covered on top of the butter. Pour out the excess sugar and then repeat with the next ramekin.

chocolate souffle
The insides of the ramekins should look like this. Butter and sugar attached to it.

chocolate souffle
Using a stand mixer, add in 1 tablespoon of sugar to the egg whites, along with a pinch of cream of tartar (thanks for reminding me we had some at home when we were searching the store yesterday). Whisk on low speed.

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips.

In another pot, heat the milk and cornstarch. Whisk until it comes to a boil and then take it off the heat.

chocolate souffle
In the stand mixer, add in another tablespoon of sugar to the egg whites and whisk on medium-high speed.

Add in the two egg yolks to the melted chocolate, stir until combined. Then add in the hot milk and continue to mix (even if the chocolate starts looking clumpy). The chocolate will take in the milk and combine (I mean, that’s how you make ganache after all).

chocolate souffle
Check on the egg whites. Add in the last tablespoon of sugar and whisk until soft peaks are formed. You can tell when it’s done when the egg white holds its’ shape. See the above photo where I left a “peak” for show.

chocolate souffle
Add in the egg whites to the chocolate mixture in thirds. Gently fold it together until no more white streaks can be seen in the batter.

chocolate souffle
The batter will turn from dark brown to light brown. But make sure you don’t over mix because you need the batter to remain airy from the egg whites. Pour the batter into the ramekins ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP. That step is pretty important.

chocolate souffle
Put the ramekins in the roasting pan and fill it halfway with hot water. Slide that into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

When it’s done, open your oven door slowly. A rush of cold air might deflate your pretty soufflés. Carefully take them out and use tongs (or I was thinking some canning equipment) to lift the hot ramekins out.

chocolate souffle
So this little guy here is the reason why I don’t have beautiful photos of the soufflés in the ramekins. I had left over batter and filled in a mini glass dessert cup (it’s not a shot glass) and was ooing and ahhing over how cute it was when it came out of the oven. Look at that height! I snapped a few photos, turned around and saw that my ramekin soufflés were starting to lose their impressive height. Nooo!!

In the end, I guess it didn’t matter. Because this soufflé was damn delicious. It was so light and airy inside and perfectly textured.

chocolate souffle
Here’s to another year of blogging! I thought I would give a shoutout to the cookbooks that I’ve used the most this year for our meals. When we’re trying to be healthy-ish and economical by meal planning (always gets derailed somehow), I’ve been turning to these tried-and-true recipes from:

Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes
Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck
Sugar Rush: Master Tips, Techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking
Eat Delicious: 125 Recipes for Your Daily Dose of Awesome

Another book I want to mention is Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way (Guided Sketchbook): Sketch, Paint, and Doodle Through One Creative Year which has given me so much joy because it has gotten me into a habit of illustrating. Many thanks to Rebecca Green for this recommendation, you’ve inspired me to give this a try. So far I’m still in the pen and pencil section of the book, but there’s colour coming soon with the food prompts. Most excitedly, I’m ready to try some gouache painting as well!

Sincerely,
Syl

kimchi udon

Dear Schumann,

I don’t know if you’d like this dish, but I suspect that you will because you hate mixing cold food with hot ones. And in this case, everything is the same temperature – hot kimchi and hot udon noodles.

I was also reminded of you because of your recent trip to Korea and Japan where you said that the food – and udon – was tastier over there. More importantly, how you said the udon there wasn’t round like the ones we buy in supermarkets here. Well, I didn’t find any flat udon noodles, but this recipe caught my eye and it was well worth it. I gave it two taste tests, each a week apart and have decided this deserves a spot in my meal planning repertoire.  Especially because it’s so fast and easy to make, perfect for busy week nights!

02_KimchiUdon

Kimchi Udon with Scallions
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 2 servings

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup kimchi, plus ⅓ cup kimchi juice
2 tablespoons gochujang
½ cup chicken broth
2-3 pre-portioned frozen udon noodles
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 scallions, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 tablespoon furikake

  1. Boil water in a large pot.
  2. Turn your stove on to medium-high heat and put in 2 tablespoons of butter, the kimchi, and gochujang. Let it cook for about 4 minutes, give it a stir occasionally.
  3. Add in the chicken broth and kimchi juice, bring the sauce to a simmer, about 3 minutes.
  4. When the water is boiling, put in the frozen udon and cook according to the directions on the package.
  5. Drain the water using a sieve when the udon is done cooking. Then transfer it into the sauce. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Toss and coat the udon in the butter and sauce for about 2 minutes.
  6. Divide into two bowls, top with egg yolk or sunny-side up egg. Sprinkle with scallions and furikake.
  7. Mix the egg yolk in to coat the udon. Enjoy!

03_KimchiUdon

The egg yolk is probably the best part. The first week, I fried up sunny-side eggs because I didn’t want to waste the egg whites. It was just as good because there’s some nice crispy texture and creamy egg yolk to go with it.

The second week, I did just the egg yolk as the recipe instructed and found it heavenly too. The hot udon noodles were coated with the creamy yolk and was just as delicious. Howard, who doesn’t like runny eggs at all, had to agree that the yolk made the dish. Validation!

04_KimchiUdon

We’ve also been obsessed with furikake lately. It goes great on plain white rice and as a salt substitute. Instead of seasoning with salt and pepper, I’ve been using this sesame seed, seaweed, ground fish, sugar, and salt mixture.

05_KimchiUdon

Next time you come over, I’ll make you this. I’m starting to keep frozen udon as a staple in my freezer now. I don’t know understand the ramen craze that much, but if udon started becoming more popular here, I could get on that train. So far, Inspire Restaurant‘s udon carbonara, Kinka Izakaya‘s kimchi udon, and MeNami‘s salmon cream udon and black sesame udon have me going back.

06_KimchiUdon

Sincerely,
Syl

not quite blackout cake

Dear Jackson,

Happy belated birthday!

Your dearest mom asked me to make you a birthday cake, since I did the same for your sister when she turned two. Between you and me, I think your cake turned out way better. That’s a win for being the second child, trust me. And it’s all due to the fact that I didn’t have to work with fondant – yay! Your godmother is a bit rusty working with fondant now since the cake trend moved away from that sugary dough.

When your mom showed me the image of Blaze and the Monster Machines, I was like hmmm why couldn’t you be into something simple like Pac-Man? That I can easily make. Luckily your mom came to the rescue and bought two Blaze toys and candied rocks for me. All I had to do was repay her kindness by making her favourite cake combination – chocolate and peanut butter. I then pitched the idea of making the outer later a blackout with crumbs to continue with our outdoor soil and rocks theme. She was all for it.

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So that is how I ended up baking the night before your birthday party. Three delicious chocolate cake layers cooling on the rack. The next morning, I whipped up some peanut butter buttercream (and perhaps did lots of taste tests with a spoon) and assembled your cake.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake
Recipe from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
(Makes three 9-inch layers)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have your three cake pans ready, line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. This creates a lot of batter, so make sure your bowl is big enough or use an electric stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. Pour in the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually add in the water. Then mix in the vinegar and vanilla extract. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended.
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Take them out and let them cool completely on a rack. These cakes are very soft, so use extra care!

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Peanut Butter Frosting
Recipe from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
(Makes enough to frost a two 9-inch layered cake)

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups icing sugar
⅔ cup smooth peanut butter

  1. Make sure your cream cheese and unsalted butter are at room temperature. Leaving it out for 1-2 hours will work too.
  2. Using a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until combined.
  3. Add in 2 cups of icing sugar, mix well. Add the remaining 2 cups of icing sugar and mix until combined. Add in the last cup of icing sugar and mix. Doing this in portions helps prevent the icing sugar from flying everywhere.
  4. Finally, add in the peanut butter and mix until the frosting is smooth.

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Jackson, when you’re older, you should make this for your mom. Just take the first layer of the cake and place it on a plate. Add a layer of peanut butter frosting on top, about 1-2 centimetres thick. Carefully place the second layer of cake on top to sandwich it. Again, top it off with frosting. Then add frosting on the sides of the cake and frost until the entire cake has been covered. The best part is that it doesn’t have to look perfectly smooth because it’ll be crusted with crumbs after.

To make the blackout crumb, take that third cake layer and put it in a bowl and use an electric whisk to break it apart. Stop when it looks like soil and gently pat it onto the sides and top of the cake.

Totally worth it. You were so thrilled with the toys on top of the cake. And you seemed to enjoy the cake, but I know your first love is JELL-O. Just like your godfather!

Sincerely,
Syl